Weather History

With records ranging all the way back to 1794, we have a lot of history to tell!

When we started recording the weather, shortly after the foundation of the Observatory in 1790, George Washington was the first President of the United States, the population of the world was less than 1 billion, and almost 50 years had yet to pass before the discovery of Neptune.

History in Brief

Meteorology is often connected in the public mind with astronomy, and, in the case of Armagh Observatory, there is good reason for this, as it has always been an aspect of the work carried out here. Weather conditions affect not only if astronomical observations can be done (is it cloudy or not), but the quality of the observations, too. It has, therefore, always been important to take note of them at observatories – both in 1794 and today.

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World Meteorological Organisation Centennial Observing Station Award

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium was recently awarded a Centennial Observing Station status by the World Meteorological Organisation. We were:

‘Recognized as a long-term observing station by the World Meteorlogical Organisation in June 2018 for more than 100 years of meteorological observations.’

The award ceremony took place in December 2018 at the Observatory and was accompanied by a Climate Panel (featuring representatives from the Met Office and Met √Čireann) at the Planetarium.

The panel discussed the history of weather readings, the current state of climate science, and focused on the likely effects of climate change in the future. The event was attended by members of the public as well as professionals in the field.

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The Night of the Big Wind

On the night of 6th January 1839, winds with the strength of a hurricane swept across Ireland, claiming hundreds of lives and causing untold damage. Armagh Observatory Director Thomas Romney Robinson recorded the event in our logs as a ‘tremendous gale in the night’, an event which inspired him to create the first examples of a cup anemometer for measuring the wind speed.

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Noctilucent Clouds

Before their existence was confirmed in 1885, Thomas Romney Robinson may have seen a rare type of cloud called noctilucent clouds. He noted ‘strange luminous clouds in NW’ that were not an aurora, which may have been the first recorded sighting of this strange phenomenon.

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Carrington Event

The Solar Storm of 1859, also known as the Carrington Event, was the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded. The aurora, or Northern Lights, it produced were very bright in Armagh. A couple of days before the storm peaked with the Carrington event, a solar flare of the type still studied by Armagh astronomers, aurora were recorded as being visible even behind clouds.

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Tunguska Event

On the morning of 30 June 1908, a massive explosion shook the sparsely-populated Eastern Siberian taiga. It was a visitor from outer space: a comet or asteroid explosively disintegrated in the atmosphere and caused a great amount of damage locally. It also affected the climate around the world for several days, as our records show.

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Meteorological Sites and Instruments Through the Years

Over the years, the location of our meteorological instruments has changed quite a lot – often they were not even all positioned in the same area. Instruments have been added or upgraded with advances in meteorology.

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Old Weather Readings Videos

We have several short video clips from the last 50 years, discussing our long tradition of weather readings and showing how the readings were completed through the decades.

While the location might have changed and instruments were removed or added, the Stevenson screen has remained the same throughout.

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